JaCoby Jones Did Fine in the Move to Shortstop, But Needs to Cut Down on Strikeouts

The Pittsburgh Pirates drafted JaCoby Jones as an outfielder in the third round of the 2013 draft, then surprised everyone the following year when they moved him to shortstop. Jones is athletic, and had played the position in high school, but played mostly center field and second base with LSU in college. The Pirates had plenty of outfield depth, and needed shortstop help in the system, so they moved him back to the position.

The reports we received on Jones last year were mixed. Some said he could eventually stick at shortstop, while others felt he’d eventually move over to second base, where his bat would still play. The offensive numbers were impressive last year, although they came with the downside of a 29.7% strikeout rate, which isn’t what you want to see from a college hitter in low-A.

Jones will move up to Bradenton this year, and might get a shot at Altoona by mid-season if his bat continues performing. The jump to Double-A will be a bigger test for his hitting, especially for his strikeout issues. I talked in the video below with Jones and with Pirates’ farm director Larry Broadway about the move to shortstop last year, and what he can do to reduce the strikeout issues in the future.

  • Looks like a guy that has an upside of a Sean Rodriguez.

  • I don’t see him as being that cocky in the video. He’s pretty subdued. Maybe he is just an all business type of guy who doesn’t really enjoy being interviewed that much. I love his swing. It is a pretty right handed swing and quick. He is a strong kid. I feel like he might be one of those guys that has out of whack bb:k #’s but still is able to get decent results because of bat speed and having a lot of power for a middle infielder. He might be a 40 bb 140 k guy but that’s ok if he can hit .250 or so and 50+ xbh a year. He has had an obp more than 50 points higher than his average so far. He’s 3 months younger than Connor Joe by the way. Just thought I’d throw that in there for no reason.

    • Problem is he is having these K issues at such a lower level. If he got a promotion to AA or AAA and you then just started seeing the issue, then maybe he’s just the guy who Ks a lot in the bigs but is serviceable due to skills. But its tough to expect his K level to even stay where it is with advanced competition.

      If Tucker ends up being even a plus defense average bat, Jones seems like a future flawed bench option. Here’s hoping he finds a way to cut the Ks quick.

      • I believe the average strikeout % at that level is 20 %. And as G. Stanton and Joey Gallo have shown, that can be improved upon with more experience. But, those two players were in their teens at A-. However, at Jones’ age at that level, he is a really long shot to ever get a MLB AB.

        • Well said, this. His age+level of play+K rate is the issue, where as if it was just one of these you have reason for optimism.

      • Agreed Luke. The only thing I have hope for is he has so few AB he can make an adjustment and pick up breaking pitches better and cut down on the Ks. I think we will know a lot by the end of this year. If he can get to AA for a few weeks an not be overmatched it would be huge. The video is just bp but the swing is nice and doesn’t even look like a huge uppercut swing. I haven’t seen him a lot but he doesn’t look like a guy that has to muscle up to hit HR. It could be interesting to see if Jones has a dominant 2015…one of he and Hanson could be a huge piece in a trade down the stretch.

        • The swing is actually what is holding Jones back at the plate, and has been all the way back to college. Has to work out the hitch in his hand load before he can expect more contact.

          Absolutely no question he has the tools and athleticism to be a big league regular, if not more. But the swing simply has to get better.

          • The hand load aside…the swing is nice.

            • The bat speed is definitely there, and that’s close to one of those things you just can’t teach.

              • Agree. With his size and strength I think the power is legit. I think he will tear it up in high A too. Can’t wait to see if he can handle AA.

  • Scott Kliesen
    March 18, 2015 7:58 pm

    Comes across as a bit cocky to me. Which I don’t think is a bad thing. Hopefully translates into drive to succeed on the field.

    • I actually really appreciate a certain level of cockiness, because it means the kid trusts his skills. Now, there is certainly a limit to that like most things. But a guy being really confident in himself and being honest about how he sees himself really never bothers me, bit more interesting than the guy who gets his cliche on.

      • I read someone quip recently that a self-confident person is either an idiot or a psychopath, and that struck me as particularly true for baseball players.

        There is so much failure inherently built into the game that you truly have to maintain an otherwise unreasonable mindset in order to keep your confidence together.

        • Very true, and it really does play out in a majority of the guys i’ve been around both playing and coaching. If you see a kid with some serious talent, he often tends to be pretty confident in himself. Because, as you said, if you arent the game can eat you up at times. Of the 2-3 guys i played with that got drafted (really really low lol) they all had the feeling of assuredness to them that often got them called cocky.

  • I think Jones is one of those prospects who is going to be boom or bust – and I am hoping for the boom. He has big time power, speed, and athleticism – if he can reduce the Ks and stick at SS, he could be a real find.